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Preparing for extreme weather

NSF Award:

Maine's Sustainability Science Initiative  (University of Maine)

Congressional Districts:
Research Areas:

A Maine Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) team is developing new tools to help Maine communities better understand and prepare for the potential local impacts of climate change.

Through surveys, focus groups and interviews, the SSI research team worked with coastal communities from Kittery to Eastport to learn more about stakeholders' needs. The researchers have learned that extreme weather causes different kinds of damage in rural and urban communities, and that municipal officials need better information in two key areas: The potential local effects of more severe weather, and the interconnections between government agencies at all levels overseeing the installation and repair of culverts and other infrastructure.

The SSI team also found that communities exhibit variation in their decision and planning calendars related to culvert maintenance and replacement. Furthermore, the disruptions caused by culvert malfunction and failures have serious consequences for the local economy--Maine's coastal counties account for 78 percent of the state's total employment. To this end, an alignment of culvert-related decision support at all levels of governance (ranging from regional emergency management agencies, state government, and federal emergency management agency) has the potential to improve community-level preparedness and planning in a changing climate.

Increasingly intense and frequent storms are striking Maine and New England, causing millions of dollars in damage and threatening fragile ecosystems. Maine's coastal communities are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather, which can damage infrastructure and property, ecosystems and local economies that rely on tourism, the state's largest industry.

Managing increased storm water runoff is a prime example of the challenges communities face in coping with climate change. Infrastructure improvements to address these problems, such as the installation of appropriately sized culverts, are expensive and complex. Culvert work, for instance, is regulated and governed by various local, state and federal agencies that often have very different governance structures. These differences may impede the ability of neighboring communities similarly affected by extreme weather to work together on effective solutions.

Shaleen Jain of the University of Maine (UMaine) and Esperanza Stancioff of UMaine's Cooperative Extension and Sea Grant led the team, whose findings could save communities millions of dollars in infrastructure replacement and repair due to extreme weather.


  • culvert replacement may help maine manage storm water runoff
Culverts help manage storm water runoff.
Vicki Nemeth

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